Author Archives: Santa

No More Nativity Scenes At Palisades Park In Santa Monica

LOS ANGELES — A federal judge on Monday denied a Christian group’s bid for a preliminary injunction to force suburban Santa Monica to reopen spaces in a city park to private, unattended displays, including Christmas Nativity scenes.

U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins formalized an earlier tentative ruling during a hearing.

William Becker, the attorney for the Christian group, said he expects the case will be dismissed at the next hearing and plans to appeal.

“The atheists won and they will always win unless we get courts to understand how the game is played and this is a game that was played very successfully and they knew it,” Becker said after the hearing.

Christmas Nativity scenes had been erected in Palisades Park for decades. Last year, atheists overwhelmed the city’s auction process for display sites, winning most of the slots and triggering a bitter dispute.

Santa Monica officials snuffed the city’s holiday tradition this year rather than referee the religious rumble, prompting churches that have set up a 14-scene Christian diorama to sue over freedom of speech claims.

Under the city’s rules, the churches can still set up an attended display when Palisades Park is open and erect unattended displays in 12 of the city’s other parks with a special permit. They can also distribute leaflets, carol or hold a Christmas play, city officials said.

“It’s a sad, sad commentary on the attitudes of the day that a nearly 60-year-old Christmas tradition is now having to hunt for a home, something like our savior had to hunt for a place to be born because the world was not interested,” Hunter Jameson, head of the nonprofit Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee, said in advance of the hearing.

The atheists were not parties to the legal case. Their role outside court highlights a tactical shift as atheists evolve into a vocal minority eager to get their non-beliefs into the public square as never before.

National atheist groups earlier this year took out full-page newspaper ads and hundreds of TV spots in response to Catholic bishops’ activism around women’s health care issues and are gearing up to battle for their own space alongside public Christmas displays in small towns across America this season.

“In recent years, the tactic of many in the atheist community has been, if you can’t beat them, join them,” said Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center and director of the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Education Project in Washington. “If these church groups insist that these public spaces are going to be dominated by a Christian message, we’ll just get in the game – and that changes everything.”

In the past, atheists primarily fought to uphold the separation of church and state through the courts. The change underscores the conviction held by many nonbelievers that their views are gaining a foothold, especially among young adults.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a study last month that found 20 percent of Americans say they have no religious affiliation, an increase from 15 percent in the past five years. Atheists took heart from the report, although Pew researchers stressed that the category also encompassed majorities of people who said they believed in God but had no ties with organized religion and people who consider themselves “spiritual” but not “religious.”

“We’re at the bottom of the totem pole socially, but we have muscle and we’re flexing it,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation. “Ignore our numbers at your peril.”

The trouble in Santa Monica began three years ago, when atheist Damon Vix applied for and was granted a booth in Palisades Park alongside the story of Jesus Christ’s birth, from Mary’s visit from the Angel Gabriel to the traditional cr�che.

Vix hung a simple sign that quoted Thomas Jefferson: “Religions are all alike — founded on fables and mythologies.” The other side read “Happy Solstice.” He repeated the display the following year but then upped the stakes significantly.

In 2011, Vix recruited 10 others to inundate the city with applications for tongue-in-cheek displays such as a homage to the “Pastafarian religion,” which would include an artistic representation of the great Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The secular coalition won 18 of 21 spaces. Two others went to the traditional Christmas displays and one to a Hanukkah display.

The atheists used half their spaces, displaying signs such as one that showed pictures of Poseidon, Jesus, Santa Claus and the devil and said: “37 million Americans know myths when they see them. What myths do you see?”

Most of the signs were vandalized and in the ensuing uproar, the city effectively ended a tradition that began in 1953 and earned Santa Monica one of its nicknames, the City of the Christmas Story.

The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee argues in its lawsuit that atheists have the right to protest, but that freedom doesn’t trump the Christians’ right to free speech.

“If they want to hold an opposing viewpoint about the celebration of Christmas, they’re free to do that – but they can’t interfere with our right to engage in religious speech in a traditional public forum,” said attorney Becker. “Our goal is to preserve the tradition in Santa Monica and to keep Christmas alive.”

The decision to ban the displays also saves the city, which had administered the cumbersome lottery process used to award booths, both time and money while preserving the park’s aesthetics, Deputy City Attorney Jeanette Schachtner said in an email.

For his part, Vix is surprised – and slightly amused – at the legal battle spawned by his solitary act but doesn’t plan anything further.

“That was such a unique and blatant example of the violation of the First Amendment that I felt I had to act,” said the 44-year-old set builder. “If I had another goal, it would be to remove the `under God’ phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance – but that’s a little too big for me to take on for right now.”

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and religion, but also states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” That has been interpreted by courts as providing for separation of church and state, barring government bodies from promoting, endorsing or funding religion or religious institutions.

To CRN, it is ‘interesting’ that modern law either says include all or allow none. It seems to us that the atheists have won on this one. What do you think?

Christmas Movies and Specials on TV for 2011 – dates, times and channels

Christmas movies and specials offered for the December 2011 season, range from some old favorites to new, yet to be classics. You can watch Christmas movies  from your grandparent’s era like “White Christmas” or “Christmas in Connecticut,” right up to some of the newer favorites like “A Christmas Story” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Here is a list of TV times and channels for Christmas movies and specials for December 2011 from AOL TV:

Dec. 14th:

7 p.m. “White Christmas,” (1954) Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye. NR. (HD) AMC

9:45 p.m. “White Christmas,” (1954) Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye. NR. (HD) AMC

Dec. 15th:

2:15 p.m. “All I Want for Christmas,” (1991, Comedy) Ethan Randall, Thora Birch. G. (HD) AMC

4:15 p.m. “White Christmas,” (1954) Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye. NR. (HD) AMC

11 p.m. “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” (1983, Animated). NR. FAMILY

11:30 p.m. “Holiday Inn,” (1942, Musical) Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire. Set in New England, this is the first movie that Bing sings “White Christmas” in. NR. (HD) AMC

Dec. 16th 2011:

5 p.m. “Deck the Halls,” (2006) Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick. Two neighbors get into a Christmas lights war as they try to make their lights  visible from space turning the neighborhood upside down. PG. (HD) FX

7 p.m. “Christmas with the Kranks,” (2004, Comedy) Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis.  (HD) FX

7 p.m. “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” (2000) Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen. PG. (HD) FAMILY

8 p.m. “Elf,” (2003) Will Ferrell, James Caan. PG. USA

8 p.m. “Fred Claus,” (2007, Comedy) Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti. PG. TNT

9 p.m. “Christmas with the Kranks,” (2004, Comedy) Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis. PG. (HD) FX

9 p.m. “Christmas in Connecticut,” (1945, Comedy) Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan. A chic magazine writer who is supposed to be an expert homemaker pretends she is married with a baby and she must entertain her boss and a war veteran for the holidays, falling in love with the war veteran.  NR. TCM

9:30 p.m. “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” (2000) Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen. PG. (HD) FAMILY

11 p.m. “Deck the Halls,” (2006) Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick. PG. (HD) FX

Dec. 18th, 2011:

12 p.m. “Most Christmasy Places in America.” A cross-country Christmas tour reveals the nation’s most glorious yuletide celebrations, from sleigh rides to nativity scenes. TV G. TRAVEL

1 p.m. “Crazy for Christmas.” A look at a colorful Poinsettia farm, Christmas tree decorating styles, a wrapping paper factory, and a visit to Santa School. TV G. TRAVEL

2 p.m. “Christmas to the Extreme.” A look at Christmas festivities features several individuals who celebrate the holiday season in the most elaborate ways possible. TV G. TRAVEL

11 p.m. “The Family Stone,” (2005, Comedy) Claire Danes, Diane Keaton.Christmas becomes a bit stuffy when a son brings his very uptight girlfriend home to propose to her. PG-13. (HD) FX

 Dec. 19th, 2011:

7 p.m. “Christmas with the Kranks,” (2004, Comedy) Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis. PG. (HD) FX

2:45 p.m. “All I Want for Christmas,” (1991, Comedy) Ethan Randall, Thora Birch. G. (HD) AMC

7 p.m. “Deck the Halls,” (2006) Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick. PG. (HD) FX

9 p.m. “Christmas with the Kranks,” (2004, Comedy) Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis. PG. (HD) FX

 Dec. 21st, 2011:

12 p.m. “Christmas with the Kranks,” (2004, Comedy) Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis. PG. (HD) FX

12:15 p.m. “All I Want for Christmas,” (1991, Comedy) Ethan Randall, Thora Birch. G. (HD) AMC

8 p.m. “Elf,” (2003) Will Ferrell, James Caan. PG. USA

Dec. 22nd, 2011

1:45 p.m. “White Christmas,” (1954) Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye. NR. (HD) AMC

Dec. 23th 2011:

1 p.m. “Bad Santa,” (2003, Comedy) Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox. This comedy is rated  R.

7p.m. Shrek the Halls.” Shrek’s plans for a peaceful Christmas holiday with his family get sidetracked when Donkey, Puss-in-Boots and the rest decide to crash the festivities. TVPG. (HD) ABC

7 p.m. “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” (2000) Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen. PG. (HD) FAMILY

8:30 p.m. “Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special.”  TVPG. ABC

Dec. 24th 2011:

4 p.m. “Dazzling Holiday Lights.” A look at holiday lights and how some of the businesses and homes go all out for the holidays. TV G. Travel  Channel

7 p.m. “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” TV G. (HD) ABC

7 p.m. “A Christmas Story,” (1983) Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin. A 9-year-old kid in 1940s Indiana tries to convince his parents to get him a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. You will remember the famous scene where the boy licks the flag pole and the father’s “leg lamp”. PG. TBS

8 p.m. “Christmas to the Extreme.” TV G. TRAVEL

9 p.m. “A Christmas Story,” (1983) Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin. PG. TBS

10 p.m. “Crazy for Christmas.” TV G. TRAVEL

11 p.m. “Christmas to the Extreme.” TV G. TRAVEL

Justin Bieber’s Early Christmas Gift: A Holiday Album

‘We are going to try and raise alot of money this year for charity!’ teen pop star tweets about next project.

By Terri Schwartz

Beliebers have more to look forward to this holiday season than just chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Justin Bieber announced Thursday (August 25) on Twitter that he’ll be releasing his first Christmas album later this year.

“So it’s true…been in the studio doing something special for christmas. we are going to try and raise alot of money this year for charity!” the 17-year-old Canadian pop star tweeted.

This will be Bieber’s second studio album, since his first release, My World, was technically an EP. Barring the release of Never Say Never — The Remixes, which featured the new single “Never Say Never,” this will be the first new music Bieber has released in more than a year. He didn’t share whether he will be collaborating with any other artists on his holiday record or when fans can expect it to hit stores.

Bieber is no stranger to using his musical talents for charitable causes. In 2010, he took part in “We Are the World 25″ alongside Miley Cryus, Kanye West and Lil Wayne. Bieber has supported charities like Give Back Hollywood, Jumpstart and Children’s Miracle Network in the past, though he did not specify which charity he would be donating the proceeds of his Christmas album to in his tweet.

The “Baby” crooner isn’t the only artist to announce a Christmas album recently. Zooey Deschanel shared the news over Twitter earlier this month that her band She & Him will be releasing their first holiday album — and third album overall — later this year. In addition, Bieber’s fellow Canadian Michael Bublé has been releasing a series of promos for his holiday album, Christmas, on his official website over the past few weeks.